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New HSE scandal as flaws found in forum's spending

SERIOUS irregularities have been uncovered in a health services forum which received more than €41m in funding over the past decade.

A HSE internal report into the Health Services National Partnership Forum has found serious discrepancies in how money was spent, cheques signed and in the governance within the organisation.

It has also revealed extensive spending on foreign travel undertaken by public officials and trade union leaders.

The details are to be brought before the Dail Public Accounts Committee next week.

The latest scandal echoes a similar controversy earlier this year involving the €60m SKILL training fund where money was channelled into a SIPTU named account. SIPTU has said it knew nothing about the account.

The HSNPF was set up to bring about greater partnership between health service management and trade unions and had an income of over €41m between 1999 and 2009.

Since 1999 the HSNPF has spent nearly €9.5m on grants to various partnership committees and more than €6m on national and local projects. It has a staff of 26 and an annual budget of about €5m.



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The HSE audit found over €1m was paid out to trade unions between 2003 and 2008.

A total of €924,963 was paid into a SIPTU National Health and Local Authority Levy account -- which SIPTU said was not one of its accounts.

The HSE report expressed concern about how funding of €1.355m allocated to the Action Plan for People Management (APPM) -- a scheme to improve human resources -- was handled.

Over €1m from this fund went to trade unions. However, the audit says guidelines drawn up by the HSNPF to manage this fund were not adhered to.

"Instead of the HSNPF receiving and validating claims from trade unions for grants, it paid the funding over in lump-sum form to SIPTU for it to validate and disburse to other trade unions."

It said that the HSNPF could not adequately explain why lump-sum payments were made to SIPTU.

Following contact from the Internal Audit team, four unions confirmed that they had received but not yet spent the funds, and to date over €250,000 has been refunded to the HSE. Spending included:



  • €146,480 on 21 foreign trips taken by members of the forum.


  • €154,474 on links with American health projects in New York.


  • About €12,000 a year on the HSNPF credit card for travel, hotels and restaurants. The credit card statements were self-certified.


  • Grants totalling €13,380m for various health agencies -- but some did not seem to be wholly partnership relevant.

csheehy@herald.ie


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